On March 4 we recognize International HPV Awareness Day. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is actually a group of viruses that are sexually transmitted. Nearly all people are infected with HPV within the first few years of becoming sexually active. High-risk HPVs can cause illness and several types of cancer. In the United States, HPV is estimated to cause about 36,000 cases of cancer each year, or about 3% of cancers in women and 2% of cancers in men.
Luckily, we have a safe and effective HPV vaccine that protects against six types of cancer and is recommended for all youth and young adults between the ages of 9 and 26. Due to the pandemic, rates of HPV vaccination, like many other vaccines, have drastically decreased. From March to May 2020, HPV doses administered declined by just over 70% for adolescents 13-17 years compared to the same time period during the previous two years. Though some time has passed, we are still not back to pre-pandemic rates of vaccination. It is vital that we bring those rates back up, and higher, to ensure youth and young adults are protected from potential disease and cancer-causing viruses.
A number of tools have been developed by NACCHO partners that can help health departments recognize International HPV Awareness Day. The Association of Immunization Managers (AIM) and the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable have developed an HPV Awareness Day Social Media Toolkit. This toolkit provides sample language and graphics that can be posted on social media in both English and Spanish. They have also produced a video with Dr. Nicole Baldwin and Kimberly Williams, a cervical cancer survivor, with messages for providers and parents. The video will go live on AIM’s website on March 4.
Additional tools and resources include:
- HPV Vaccination Toolkit from the Pennsylvania Immunization Coalition and partners
- The HPV Roundtable Resource Library
- American Cancer Society HPV Resources
- Shutting the Door on HPV Cancers: an online module from the Immunize Kansas Coalition
- The American College Health Association’s toolkits for students and families
- NACCHO’s Guide to HPV Resources for Local Health Departments
Join NACCHO and our partners in promoting HPV vaccine awareness to get youth and young adults back to the doctor to get started on their HPV vaccine series and protect them from cancers and other serious illnesses.